Gap year in China
China is a country of extreme proportions and contrasts. The most northern town of Mohe lies in line with Berlin, and the tropical island of Hainan is situated on the same degree of latitude as the south Sahara. Between these extremes are gigantic cities, monuments to imperial dynasties, fertile lowlands, Mongolian grass steppes, and vast deserts.
Discover China on a boat trip down the Yangtze, the third largest river in the world. Travel along the millennium-old Silk Road or hike along the Great Wall, one of the largest constructions made by man.
Does TravelWorks accept participants from outside the UK?
Yes. Participants from the United Kingdom and the United States are welcome to participate in the gap year in China programme, as are citizens from other countries. If you are from another country, we will have to check your country’s visa requirements to see if you can participate.
Do I need to take a test to prove my English skill level?
No. No test is required, and even if you are not a native English speaker, you may still participate in the gap year in China. However, since you will be teaching English classes, you need to have good English skills. You should NOT participate in this programme in order to improve your own English skills.
Do I need special references or experience to participate?
No. You do not need to have any specific teaching, educational, or work experience in order to participate in the gap year in China programme. However, teaching experience or experience working with children are definitely advantages.
Is there an age limit? How old are typical participants?
No, there is no upper age limit, although you must be at least 18 years old in order to participate in the gap year in China. Most participants are between 18 and 30 years of age. If you are older than this, you are still welcome to participate in the programme, but you should know that it is rather unlikely that you will meet people your own age on location.
Can I participate with a friend?
Yes. When you apply, you can list a travel partner, and we are generally able to place travel partners together at the same project. However, we cannot guarantee 100% that you will be placed in the same project.
Can I combine my volunteer work in China with a volunteer programme in another country?
Yes. It is often possible to combine programmes. Feel free to contact TravelWorks for more information.
Which projects can I work on?
The main focus of this programme is English instruction at Chinese schools. In Shanghai, there is a kindergarten and a centre for children with cerebral palsy, where participants can volunteer. The projects are located in Shanghai's city centre, on the islands off the coast of Shanghai, in Suzhou (about 1-2 hours from Shanghai by bus), in the Si Chuan province (a three-hour flight away from Shanghai), and in Zhengzhou (16 hours from Shanghai by train).
It is very important that you discuss your ideas and expectations with the teachers/project supervisors in China. You need to be very flexible during your gap year in China, especially during your volunteer project assignment.
Please observe that you will not always be given fixed assignments. It is very important that you are creative, adaptable, flexible, and self-sufficient, in order to make good use of your volunteering time.
Can I choose the city/region where I would like to volunteer?
Yes. You will be able to choose which city or region of China you would like to work in before you leave for your gap year in China.
Can I choose which project I would like to work on?
Before you leave for your gap year in China, we will send you a list of the different projects you could participate in, and you can send us a list of your project preferences. You will find out before you leave for China which project you will be volunteering for. Since your placement depends on the current conditions in the various projects, volunteers should be flexible and open enough to work in any of the available projects.
How much time will I actually spend volunteering? Will I have free time?
Past volunteers have taught about 11-15 classes a week, with classes often lasting about 35 minutes. However, this can vary widely, depending on the school. For example, if you are placed in classes with younger children, you may end up playing with the children more and teaching less. Factoring in the time you will need to prepare for classes, you could be quite busy during your gap year in China. But you should still have plenty of time to travel and explore China!
Am I expected to provide my own teaching materials?
You will most likely be expected to teach class on your own, and therefore you will have to plan your own classes, with whatever materials you deem necessary. Before you leave for your gap year in China, we will send you a list of possible teaching strategies and exercises to help you prepare for teaching, but you should also start preparing on your own. English songs and games often work well, and are fun ways to teach the children.
Will I be expected to teach the whole English class by myself?
Probably. Most volunteers prepare for and teach their own English classes, although there may be more than one volunteer assigned to one class. The exact situation will depend on the school where you are placed during your gap year in China.
How will I communicate with the teachers at the school? Do they usually speak English?
Teachers at your school will be able to speak at least very basic English. You should not have too much trouble communicating during your gap year in China, and if there are any misunderstandings, our local partner organisation is available to help you.
Where will I live? What will my accommodation be like?
During the orientation in Shanghai, you will stay either in a shared flat or in a hostel. Most volunteers in the Shanghai city-centre will stay in accommodation provided by the schools where they volunteer.
If you are assigned to a project farther away from Shanghai or on one of the Shanghai islands, you will be living in accommodation reserved for teachers at the school in which you will be working, or in a shared flat.
Please expect more basic living conditions than those you are used to. Please note that the accommodation can be quite simple. Water failures and power outages are not unusual.
Will I live with other volunteers?
You will probably share a room with other volunteers during your gap year in China, but this is not guaranteed.
Will other volunteers be working on the same project as me?
There is a good chance that you will have at least one other volunteer to work with, especially if you are placed in the city centre of Shanghai. You will meet other volunteers at the orientation, and volunteers often end up travelling and sight-seeing together.
Is there a volunteer “base”?
Yes. Our partner organisation has an office in Shanghai, where you can go for help and advice throughout your gap year in China. They also have a computer with internet access, which you will be welcome to use for free.
Is there a way for me to contact the other volunteers before I Ieave?
Yes. We can send you a list of the other volunteers and their e-mail addresses before you leave for your gap year in China.
What is the health/safety situation in China? Do I need vaccinations?
China is a country where the health risks are more extreme than they are in Europe or the United States. In some parts of China, for example, there is the risk of contracting malaria. Therefore, you should definitely go to a doctor for advice about necessary vaccinations and health precautions. You should do this as early as you can, to make sure you get the proper vaccinations in time. You can find useful information regarding vaccinations at www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk.
China is a wonderful place to travel, as long as you are careful. You can find extensive information about the safety situation in China and other countries on the website of the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office: (www.fco.gov.uk) or the website of the U.S. Department of State: (travel.state.gov).
Be aware that you will be surrounded by a culture completely foreign from your own.
Do I need to apply for a visa?
Citizens of the UK and the United States will need to apply for a tourist visa, specifically the “L Visa”, in order to volunteer in China. If you are from another country, we will have to check the specific visa requirements for your country.
Please note that your passport needs to be valid for at least 6 more months when you apply for your visa.
Should I buy travel insurance?
Yes, we strongly recommend that you get travel insurance to protect yourself abroad. WorldNomads offers flexible travel insurance for short-term and gap-year travellers like yourself. Note that this is only a recommendation. Feel free to search for the travel insurance which is right for you.
Are food and accommodation included in the programme price?
Your accommodation during the orientation and volunteering is included in the gap year in China programme price. For teaching volunteers, food will be provided Monday through Friday, and is included in the programme cost. Food during the orientation days is not included in the programme price. At the weekends, you will have to buy your own food, but meals are very inexpensive in China, in comparison with western countries. A full meal in China usually costs less than £ 2.
How much money should I expect to spend on extra costs such as travel and food?
Our partner organisation recommends that if you are planning to go sightseeing, travelling, and shopping during your gap year in China, you should budget about 1,500 RMB (China Yuan Renminbi) per month. This is equivalent to about £ 135 (US$ 225 / 150 €) Of course, this depends on your personal lifestyle, so you could spend less or more than this.
Aside from the cost of the programme, you should factor in the following expenses:
- Flight ticket
- Travel insurance
- Travel expenses, souvenirs, personal expenses, etc.
- Some meals (during the orientation days and at the weekends during the volunteering programme)
- Visa costs
- Miscellaneous personal expenses
Will I earn money during my project work?
No, this is volunteer work! This means that through your work, you are supporting people in need and assisting in projects, which usually have barely enough money to cover their own essential expenses. Please do not expect payment for your volunteer work. Instead, look at this as an amazing opportunity to help people and gain meaningful life experiences.
What are my next steps?
If you decide to participate in the gap year in China programme, just fill out the PDF or online Booking Form. Please note that if you are booking online you will need a credit card (we accept Visa or MasterCard). If you choose the PDF booking form, please print, fill out, and sign the form before faxing it to TravelWorks. As soon as we have received your application, we will process your booking. At this point your application will be legally binding. We will contact you if we need any additional information.
You will receive various application materials by e-mail after you have applied for the gap year in China programme. These documents need to be completed and returned to TravelWorks.